More than 60 years later, Eisenhower’s Farewell Address still remains one of the most intellectually rich and substantively important speeches in America’s history.
Most do not form sentences like this anymore, in any field, especially not politics. Nor do we pack each clause with as much depth or information or moral aspirations. Though the intellect is a second class citizen now, pushed outside of modern society and discourse, this speech stands as a powerful reminder of the potential we once had and still may have again.
It also stands, with the historic hindsight we posses now, as the stark warning it was originally intended to be. Just 3 years later began a string of assassinations of America’s most advanced and progressive thinkers and leaders willing to question the very shadowy powers that cut short the lives of these individuals over the next 10 years.
From JFK, to Malcolm X, MLK, Bobby Kennedy, Huey Newton and the Black Panthers, America was consistently, swiftly and brutally made aware that a dark power far beyond anything it had seen before stood lurking, ready and willing to snuff out the light of anything or anyone who dared question the direction they demanded we be headed.
Thus the 1960s remain the moment that America itself was killed off in a great coup by powers unknown over the course of 8 years, just as Eisenhower predicted and attempted to warn us about; the 1970s witnessed a long dark decade of shock, mourning and helplessness that was left behind from the ashes of the once great and proud nation.
If we just could have been able at the time to fully comprehend the powerful threat that Eisenhower was clearly warning us about, might we have been able to defend the nation better? Might we have been able to thwart those dark and invisible powers from killing our bravest and brightest and their insidious plans?
Being able now to only look back as an exercise in intellectual questioning, we will never be able to know truly what might have been had we heeded this president’s warning of clear and present dangers lurking below the surface within our own borders. But the one thing we still can do is listen intently to his speech and apply his understanding and our own historic experiences post-1960 and apply them to modern times and our own future as a people and as a nation. We can do this. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to do so.